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Sauro shows his ‘best form’ in the MLS Cup playoffs after a lengthy rehab

The defender has made a remarkable recovery and is a key part of Columbus’ defense at a crucial time.

MLS: Columbus Crew at Portland Timbers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a difficult two-year stretch for Columbus Crew SC defender Gaston Sauro. In May of 2016, in a game against Toronto FC, the defender tore the posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. He was given the option of surgery to correct the issue, but declined.

Fourth months after the injury, Sauro began experiencing pain in the same knee that he spent countless hours rehabilitating. Team doctors reevaluated the defender and found that it a new issue had arisen, and was worsened by the original ailment.

Doctors informed the defender of the steps needed to remedy the situation. Given just a 50 percent chance to return to the field and the game he loved, Sauro opted for a transplant to remedy the serious cartilage damage he experienced. Not only would the recovery be difficult, but the possibility of not playing again was concerning to the defender.

The 28-year-old worked tirelessly to find the field after missing considerable time. Sauro is now back and proving to be an important part of the Crew SC defense. He started in the Black & Gold’s final two regular season games and performed well, even impressing himself along the way.

“I’m feeling very well,” Sauro said on Friday. “I think I’m in my best moment now, the injury is in the past now. It was a tough year because I was challenging myself to be back and I started to train with the group at 100 percent around June, July. It was late in the year and I think that’s why now I’m showing my best form because it’s the time of the year that I arrive after a long process to this point and I’m in my best shape now.”

On Thursday evening in a the MLS Cup playoffs Knockout Round match against D.C. United, Sauro demonstrated that “best form.” The defender made his first appearance in the playoffs since the 2015 MLS Cup Final against the Portland Timbers and played all 120 minutes. Sauro’s efforts limited offensive opportunities for Wayne Rooney and the upstart Black and Red and sent one of the hottest teams in Major League Soccer home early.

Not only did the defender impress fans and pundits, but head coach Gregg Berhalter liked Sauro’s work rate on and off the field.

“I can’t say enough about how Gaston has worked hard to get himself in this position,” Berhalter said. “We’ve envisioned what he can bring to this team but you never know if it’s going to become a reality. And for it to become a reality is a testament to the work he’s done.”

Following the win on Thursday, Sauro praised the team for their efforts and remained focused on the task at hand, besting the New York Red Bull on Sunday afternoon. Crew SC now take on the Supporters’ Shield winners in a two-legged series beginning this weekend at MAPFRE Stadium.

“We are so happy because we got the result that we needed to get in this spot of the playoffs now,” Sauro said. “It was a difficult field. They were a great team the last two months. We beat them and we are now ready for Red Bull. That will be another good good game for us.”

For professional athletes, recovery is critical to their success. The Black & Gold understand this and will be playing a well rested New York team on Sunday afternoon. Sauro and his teammates began establishing a routine since the D.C. game concluded Thursday.

“We are recovering now, eating well. We need to sleep well,” the defender said. “We have to be ready to play against the best team in the league. We are ready for that and I think what happened (Thursday) helped the confidence of all the team and to be ready for the next step.

Fans are ready for a playoff home game, and so is the Argentine defender. Sauro has enjoyed his time in Columbus since arriving in August of 2015. Central Ohio is a special place for him and his family because Sauro and his wife welcomed their son into the world during his time with Crew SC. The defender forged a special bond with the fans and the community and is thrilled for the atmosphere on Sunday afternoon.

“We are so happy, and that are fans too,” he said. “Because with all that happened to the club, that they say that they are going to move the club, they’re not, I think the fans, they need to have this moment and share with us and I hope that it will be an amazing game Sunday.”